Q&A: Phone calls and visits in the midst of a schedule

Black phone outside
I am still trying to figure out what to do with
regards to visiting others (friends, people who need encouragement) and
also talking on the phone ( to just say hi, for example talking to a
friend who I haven't seen in a while, and to encourage others, and to
make necessary other calls…although its mainly the first two that
tend to turn into longer calls than anticipated).


I don't want to be a slave to my routine, but one phone call to a
friend can really throw off my day (not to mention the discipline
problems it brings up in my daughter that then also take time to deal
with). I can say in theory that I will only be 20 minutes or whatever
but it really can easily turn into an hour (or more). Especially if the
other person really seems lonely. I love to talk on the phone- but I
know I need to limit that time…

Any thoughts on how you manage this would be appreciated. Its not
just friends either- its also family- all of our family are long
distance and therefore we do a lot of visiting by phone. So are several
good friends who live in other places. Its hard to keep a balance.      

This is also a tough issue for me, Nola, and I completely understand where you are coming from!

I will confess… the toughest part of this for me is my tendency to view phone calls as interruptions to my schedule. It's not that I don't love talking to others. It's just that it's hard enough to get everything done in the day, without taking up a lot of time chatting. One thing that I need to learn is that sometimes, interruptions are just part of life, and they are an opportunity for me to bless someone, or build a relationship, and ultimately they sometimes need to take precedence over my "to-do" list.

That said, here are a few things that I have done as I attempt to work around this issue in our home:

1) We use caller display-
Not only does this help me avoid sales calls (a definite plus!), but depending on where I am at in my day, it gives me the ability to choose to answer a call that I think might be important, or to allow the machine to get it so that I can get back to it at a better time.

2) Use my answering machine to my advantage-
If there is a number I'm unsure of, or I'm not sure why somebody is calling (and it's not a good time for me to pick up the phone), I let the machine get it and I stay nearby and listen to the message. That way, I can go over and pick up the phone if I decide I want to answer, or decide to just leave it be.

3) Make good use of email- If there is something quick that needs to be communicated, and I don't want to get into a long phone conversation, I will just send an email (unless it's urgent and I don't think they'll get the email in time). This keeps it quick and simple.

4) Plan my longer calls around my tasks- If I know that I want to talk to my Mom on the phone for half an hour, I will try to find something that I can do mindlessly while talking, such as folding or putting away laundry, or tidying up, or sweeping. That way I can stay productive, and still keep my attention on my phone call. It's also nice to plan phone calls for naps or quiet times.

5) Deal with discipline by hanging up-
This was such a hard thing for me to learn to do, and sometimes I still do not do it as I should. I am trying to be consistent about simply ending my phone call by politely saying that I need to see to my children, and I will talk to them later. Much as I may want to have uninterrupted adult conversation, my children are my priority and I don't want to set the precedent that they can disobey while Mommy is on the phone.

6) Preface a short phone call– By stating right away that I only have a minute to talk, it frees me up to graciously end a phone call after the reason for the call has been accomplished. I used to feel rude doing this, but now I realize it's just part of being a busy mom sometimes.

7) Limit my visits to once a week- This is a bit of a different issue, but I'll briefly address it. I don't have a hard and fast rule, but I try to accept invitations (or offer invitations) to hang out with others only about once a week. Sometimes we don't do any visiting in a week, other weeks we might have two days (rare, but it happens), but overall it balances out. This gives me the flexibility to plan some visits, but to also keep it minimal enough that I can be home most of the time. If I am offered too many invitations, I simply say that I have too much going on that week, but I would love to spend time together another week.

All that said, I don't do this perfectly. Though this generally works for me and I have learned to guard our family time and my mothering and homemaking responsibilities better than I used to, I have swung somewhat in the opposite direction. Now I struggle more with keeping up with phone calls, messages and emails, and responding to my friends and family in a timely manner (this is what I need to focus on next!). It can certainly be a bit of a balancing act!

I would love to hear some solutions from others! How do you balance time on the phone, especially with friends and family that are far away, or that are lonely or needing encouragment, with keeping a schedule and staying focused on your children?

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  1. Thank you for answering my question, Stephanie! Its good to know I am not alone in trying to balance everything.

    Some good ideas to think about. I especially like the idea of planning a day per week when I can take/go for visits etc. and then declining any other visiting for that week (but planning it for later).

  2. Nope, you’re not alone! 🙂 I’m glad there were some helpful ideas… hopefully some others comment with their own thoughts and ideas, too!

  3. I have the same problem! That’s one of the reasons I tend to talk on my cell phone while driving. It’s the one time of day when I’m just sitting, doing “nothing.” (I commute at least an hour most days of the week.) Unfortunately, it’s an extremely dangerous habit and one I try to limit, with varying degrees of success.

    One thing that helps me at home is to use a headset. That way my hands are free, so at least I can clean, do laundry, and even make dinner while chatting. But I can see how that might not be as helpful for moms unless you’re talking during naptime.

  4. Like, Alison, I too, tend to make my family and long distance friend phone calls (parents, siblings, best friend, etc.) while I am driving. I try to use a headset, but don’t always remember. My kids are generally more well behaved in the van when I’m on the phone than they are at home when I’m on the phone.

    I always save my important phone calls – you know, the ones where you actually NEED your brain -(ie. medical, scheduling appts., etc.) for when the older 2 are napping since the baby isn’t much of a disruption!

  5. Thanks for a great question and answer! It was certainly good for me to read. I feel like I have problems with interruptions, too. One thing that’s hard is for others to realize that even though you are home all day it’s still your job. No one would even think of trying to keep you on the phone at an office. So for me, the best (& hardest thing) is to set a time and cut it off at that time.

  6. I hate talking on the phone and utilize call display all the time. I don’t get a lot of calls anymore because most people know I won’t bother answering the phone 🙂

    You’ve shared some great tips here, I use almost all of them myself and they really help!

  7. In other societies we would be considered very ‘cold’ people. Visiting only one day a week? They would think that ridiculous in, say, Brazil (where I spent three months after high school.) There they literally live in eachothers’ yards of course. We were created to be social people, especially women. I think that we need to focus not on how to limit visiting, but on how to make it more productive. Try canning with a friend. Or baking with a friend. I have heard of women getting together to make freezer meals together. I mean how good is that? Spending the whole day together and having 10 meals in the freezer at the end of the day. I’ve made salsa with friends. My husband and I make veggie packs with friends of ours every year. (We do this in the evening when our kids are sleeping.) My s-i-l and I get together and sew (we plan to make our kids pj’s next time.) Visiting is a good thing…not every day, all day, but here and there and spontaneously too. Especially when you are at home with only your younger children it is a good thing to touch base on a regular basis with another adult. It can keep you sane. I have found that when I have a morning with another mom I can encourage and be encouraged. We can discuss how to be better mothers and wives and how to live out our faith. I encourage you not to be a slave to your ‘schedule’ but be willing to change it for another person.

    And one more thing… a warning from someone who has learned the hard way. Don’t waste time on your computer. What is happening in our society right now is that people are being fulfilled by their ‘virtual lives’ instead of building real, personal relationships with those around them. Visiting with a real friend and sister in Christ (or a neighbor who really needs to know Christ) is much better use of your time then surfing the internet and building up readership on your own blog. (This is not a smash on you Stephanie, we all just need our limits – I had to quit my blog because it simply took too much time. I have a few blogs I read and for the rest I just leave it be.)

    Ooops, I just previewed this post and it is looong.

  8. Alisa, that’s an interesting comment, about being considered a cold society. I’m sure that would be true, compared to some societies. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t lend itself to a lot of personal contact anymore. There aren’t really any other young stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood. I don’t have a car during the day, and most of my friends live out of walking distance (while pushing a double stroller up hills, that is). For me, there aren’t a whole lot of simple visiting options, during the daytime. When I have the opportunity, I really enjoy the rare morning that I can use the car to visit a friend, or the chance to have a friend over for tea.

    I very much agree about doing practical things with friends. This, I love to do! Last week a friend and I got together to do some sewing while our kids played. The week before, my social time was canning with another friend. It’s such a great way to combine doing things we need to do with having wonderful fellowship with another woman.

    Perhaps there is some confusion, though, about what my social life actually looks like. When I say that I schedule visits only once a week, I am talking about during the week, while my husband is at work. When it comes to the evenings and weekends, we’re quite the social family. We regularly have friends over, or go visiting as a family. We attend a church caregroup once a week, I am part of a homeschool support group once a month. We spend time with family whenever we can. We are far from anti-social, just to set the record straight.

    The reason that I limit my social time during the day is because it is a very full time job, being a mom and homemaker! There’s so much to do, and if I spent too much time on the phone or visiting, suddenly my house isn’t being cleaned, laundry isn’t getting done, and nourishing meals aren’t making it to my dinner table. Not to mention, consistent discipline and child training (difficult when around others) and home educating. These are priorities, and I think that it’s important for me to stay grounded in the home, rather than making my friendships too great of a priority. Though I highly value them (and I really, really do!), I still find that I need to watch my time commitment if I am to truly keep my family first.

    As for computer time, I think most of us would agree that it is too easy to waste time on the computer. I find it a temptation, and have to limit myself in that area. Though I love blog reading, I just can’t do it very often, as it’s too easy to get caught up in it. I read when I can, what I can, and forget the rest. I avoid social networking like the plague, because it is such a time stealer (in my humble opinion).

    Phew… my response is equally long! Thanks for bringing up some great aspects of this conversation, Alisa! 🙂

  9. Just checked back quickly to see what the other’s responses were. In my comment I also mentioned how I thought it was a good idea to limit visits to once a week. What I meant by that was the same as Stephanie- I mean during my work day as a homemaker and mother. We attend 3 church meetings a week most of the time, have social time with others on the weekend or during the evenings as well. I try to limit all the extra visiting (not meaning church meetings) due to my own overwhelmedness to 3 things per week including the time I spend during my work day visiting. I LOVE the idea of getting together with others to do things productive and visit at the same time. I find this extremely lacking in our society. I think it used to be the way things were done more than they are now. Like getting together to do canning. I don’t really know people who are interested in that sort of thing. I am going to pray about finding some friends who I could visit with in this way- doing something like baking or cooking or canning together. Most people I know aren’t interested or don’t eat the same way my family does. I wish that our communities were built more the way they used to be. Most of my friends live far away. Even at my church people drive over an hour from all directions. It does make visiting difficult without a car all the time.

    I also agree about time online. Its a temptation for sure. I use a timer that beeps when the time is up when I am on the computer and find it really helps.

    Be careful about talking while driving though. I’ve seen it so many times where people are swerving/driving too slow etc. while talking.

  10. Nola, love the idea of using a beeper for computer time!
    And I hope that you do find some friends with similar interests, or maybe even discover that some friends you already have would be interested in doing things that you might be surprised by.

  11. I really wonder how to deal with this problem: my kids calling me now that they are leaving the nest one after the other

  12. My best friend and I could talk hours on the phone but we have a system of leaving each other messages on our cell phones voice mail and can reply back on the voice mail system. If it’s really important, we call each other direct otherwise we can leave questions or prayer requests on the vm and respond back quickly to each other without taking up a lot of time.

    Please don’t think this is cold towards each other. We talk in person alot but this system holds us accountable to not spending time on the phone when we should be taking care of our home.

  13. Thank you for sharing this post with us. I recently wrote about my dilemma with the phone on my blog. You made some great suggestion. I really do enjoy your blog. Thanks again. Linda

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